One of the latest trends in healthy eating is healthy desserts. I am a fan of trying to adapt our favorite recipes, using higher quality products. Still, I firmly believe that healthy eating is not only about food quality, but also about food quantity. I would say that achieving the goal of being healthy and fit is a combination of quality food and healthy amounts.
And yet, in their desire to indulge their appetites, many people fool themselves that as long as real and quality food is consumed, they don’t need to restrict the amount. And then they end up getting very disappointed, because they think they deprive themselves of baked goods, chocolate, etc., but don’t achieve results. Before we stigmatize a particular way of eating, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit if we are overdoing some food and if we have modified it in a way that is not supportive of our goals.
I work with a lot of men and women and I often see how they are tempted to have one or two healthy truffles or a tablespoon of home-made chocolate after every meal. When you eat 4-5 times a day and add a healthy dessert to every meal, the amount and the calories soar.
Today I am going to give you a manual to help you choose which healthy desserts to eat. And most importantly – how often to consume them.
1.Determine your goals
What you need to do in order to get from goal one to goal two is not the same as what you need to do to get to goal three. In other words, if you have not paid any attention to your diet before and are significantly overweight, your top priority is to change the quality of your food. The quantity will come second. If you have been eating döner kebabs, wafers, sandwiches, chips, etc. every day, eliminating these foods and replacing them with all kinds of healthy alternatives will probably not interfere with your progress. First of all, because it is difficult to eat the same enormous amounts of healthy food, since healthy food is sufficiently filling and provides no empty calories, i.e. when you eat it, the body obtains the necessary micro- and macronutrients and this sends satiety signals.
Second of all, since you get full sooner, you end up consuming fewer calories than with your unhealthy way of eating; your hormone balance improves and this affects the way you look and feel. And last, but not least, our behavior is largely determined by our biochemistry. Unhealthy food leads to unhealthy behavior. Quality food changes our biochemistry in a way that makes us act differently and has a positive impact on our behavior.
But if you have already lost a lot of weight or never had much of a weight issue, but just decided to eat healthier, then your starting point is different. You don’t have a lot of excess weight and this definitely means you need less food. It is wrong to think that overweight people need less food to lose weight. They actually expend more energy in order for their larger body to function. The problem in their case is how they absorb and use food – this is what they need to focus on. And vice versa: leaner people, even if they have more metabolically active tissue, need slightly less energy. If you are one of them, you will have to pay enough attention to the amount of food you consume and not only to its quality.
2.Identifying macronutrients in healthy desserts
Not all healthy desserts or sweets in general are created equal. One of the main things you need to be aware of is what their macronutrients look like, or in other words, the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates they contain. Protein is one of the macronutrients that have to be present in sweets to make them sufficiently filling (not for an hour or two, but for a longer period of time). The variables are fat and carbohydrates and they are usually inversely proportional to each other, i.e. the more carbohydrates a food has, the less fat it should contain, and vice versa. I don’t mean to say you should eliminate one of these macronutrients, because I am a fan of taste as a complex and multisensory perception.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Many healthy pancakes I include in my diet contain enough protein, a little carbohydrates and some fat. Every time I make a cake, for example my healthy brownie for travelers, I make sure it contains enough protein, so if I eat it as my afternoon snack, I can have a nourishing and filling meal.
On the other hand, raw cakes and truffles usually have much less protein and a lot of fat and carbohydrates. They fall in the category of more calorie-dense desserts and sweets.
After you identify what macronutrients a food contains, you have to determine how often you should consume it.
3.Determine how often you should consume the desserts
The more protein a dessert contains and the greater the disproportion between fat and carbohydrates, the more frequently you can consume this food.
And vice versa: the less protein a food contains and the smaller the disproportion between fat and carbohydrates, the more seldom you should consume this food.
Another example: healthy muffins, made from eggs, a couple of tablespoons of coconut flour, spices and some fresh fruit, can be part of your daily menu. You can include them in your breakfast or afternoon snack. The same goes for pancakes or a cake, made from similar ingredients.
You can have smoothies with added protein powder or cheese curds/yogurt.
When it comes to foods, made from nuts and dried fruit, these should not form the foundation of your daily menu. I would not recommend that you eat 5-6 truffles from dates, nuts, nut or seed butters, etc., for breakfast. You would probably get hungry soon afterwards and, what is more, these truffles often have more than 100 kcal a piece. You can obtain the same calories from something much more nourishing and filling.
For me this kind of healthy desserts are just that – desserts. Something to be consumed in small amounts and for the sake of taste, and not to be relied on for satiety.
4.Determine the amount
Amounts are highly individual. First of all, it depends on what your goals are, what your eating plan is and how much energy you expend. For example, if your menu is dominated by fats, you should include larger amounts of those sweet foods that contain more protein, fat and some carbohydrates. If you consume more carbohydrates, you should choose desserts, containing more protein and carbohydrates and less fat.
The amount is also determined by what you eat during the rest of the day. I am not a fan of three- or four-course meals. I rarely eat dessert after my main meal. What can be called dessert is usually my afternoon snack. For example, the coconut squares I made some time ago would have been my afternoon snack and not a treat I would have after lunch or supper. This way you can include various and tasty sweet foods and at the same time avoid eating too much food for the day. This is one of my main recommendations – have your healthy dessert as your afternoon snack and not after a meal, and make sure it has enough protein.
The more calorie-dense the ingredients of a healthy dessert, the less of it you should consume. In practical terms this means that the more nut or seed butters, oils, nuts, dried fruit and coconut products a dessert contains, the less of it you should eat. This kind of desserts should be consumed in small amounts and only occasionally. Likewise, back in the day we did not have cake every day and at every meal – we normally had it once or twice a week or even only on special occasions and in small amounts.
5.A couple of other recommendations
Try to use as little dried fruit as possible and choose more fresh fruit instead. Dried fruit usually has added sugar. It is not as filling as fresh fruit and since volume also affects satiety when we eat, fresh fruit contains more water too, which contributes to the feeling of satiety and provides extra volume.
When you make desserts that contain enough protein, add more spices too. What makes food delicious is this very combination of tastes that comes from spices.
Make sure your food always contains a little of every nutrient and also follow the rule about the proportion between fat and carbohydrates. The combination of the three macronutrients always satisfies the taste receptors and brings more satiety.
6.Determine your serving sizes of healthy desserts
What can be measured can usually be achieved. It is no accident that each food has a recommended serving size. When you make a birthday cake or some other kind of cake, divide them into serving sizes to have a clear and honest idea of how much you ate. You don’t have to calculate everything with precision. For example, if your cake contains 6 eggs, 150 grams of cheese curds, 150 grams of flour, 3 bananas, spices, etc. (this is not a real recipe, just an example. I will not be held responsible, if you try to make this and it doesn’t work :D). You know you usually eat about 2 eggs, 1 banana + some other stuff that has additional calories and macronutrients – in that case you divide the cake into 4-5 serving sizes and have one or one and a half. The point here is to work with average values. This will also help you quickly realize that desserts based on nut or seed butters, nut oils, coconut products (such as cream), nuts and dried fruit can be consumed in smaller amounts and less often, because otherwise you would quickly exceed your macronutrients for the day.